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Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson
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Kolymsky Heights (1994)

by Lionel Davidson

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3952427,097 (3.69)19
  1. 00
    Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: More intrigue at sub-zero temperatures
  2. 00
    Kim by Rudyard Kipling (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both these books feature cunning, clever spies who speak several languages and can pass for several different nationalities - they are also both great adventures.
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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Kolymsky Heights is a marvelous adventure story, notable for the exotic setting of most of the story in the remotest, most secret parts of Siberia. Johnny Porter, a full-blooded Canadian Gitksan Indian, who is also a polymath and has a knack for picking up languages is tracked down and asked to respond to a message from a Russian scientist he met years before, who has requested that he come to the secret Siberian base where he is carrying out research, because apparently Porter is the only man who can understand—or perhaps the only one he trusts. But how does one get to a closed-off base in Siberia, where all the scientists working there know they will never be allowed to leave? That is where the pleasure of this story comes in. Davidson takes us through a detailed, well thought-out plan that first has Porter impersonating a Korean seaman, then…well, you should just read and find out. And if getting in is tough, getting out is even harder. There are great characters in this book who are either trying to catch Porter or are knowingly or unknowingly aiding him. What drives Porter, other than a sense of curiosity and determination to overcome any obstacle, is hard to define for much of the book, but by the end, perhaps we can understand his inner life a bit better. There is so much to love in this book. It isn’t often that scenes of someone driving through the snow and darkness can be so completely absorbing. The settings, whether various places in Siberia, the ship, or Japan are so real you can see them as you read. Philip Pullman, in his introduction (which you should read afterwards although there are no huge spoilers), calls this the best thriller he has ever read. He is definitely on to something. Few books present such a fascinating protagonist in such a well-drawn setting. I’ll be heading to the used book store tomorrow to find other books by Lionel Davidson. From their descriptions, they provide the same sort of in-depth pleasure this one does. ( )
  datrappert | May 20, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Good Cold War novel. Great story of a man sent out to discover a mystery with very little support or plan or reason to go other than the adventure. Was very realistic and plausible. Reminded me of "Last of the Breed" by Louis L'Amour. ( )
  cwflatt | May 17, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Davidson could write an excellent and exciting chase scene, but that is really all I can say about the book. Secret message sent from Serbia sends hero Johnny Porter around the globe to finally end up in the secret Russian research station. Davidson hero is too amazing to be taken seriously. Master of disguise, master of languages, can build a jeep in a cave, it like he's Doc Savage team of helpers all rolled into one.
A writer has to be able to make the reader believe in plots, it just didn't work for me. ( )
  bjbookman | May 13, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's... fine. I like the puzzle solving aspect, course correcting, and good use of multiple perspectives.

But everything is a little too extra:
our dude is a professor at TWO universities and well known and published in his field AND a master of languages and disguise and an expert driver and a mechanical genius and physically exceptional and willing to kill people if they're in his way AND sleeps with all the women? cmon.

no spoilers but... I was not impressed with the payoff. We go through a lot of book to get something.. good but not "sure randomly kill someone if you're suspicious of them while risking your life a lot" in my mind.

I feel like a jerk, but I'd rather of read another Jack Reacher. ( )
  ansate | May 9, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
KOLYMSKY HEIGHTS by Lionel Davidson is a 1994 thriller that could have been written today. It is a little long but every step of the tale is interesting. A mysterious message is smuggles out of a security area in Siberia that is so secret the Americans have never heard of it. The message calls for a single select man to infiltrate his way into Russia, make it to this facility, meet with someone there and possibly smuggle something out. The only man for the job doesn't like any government, is very much a loner, and is highly intelligent.
The first third of the book is taken up with the secret message, finding the one man, and getting him to do the job. The middle section is a detailed trek into the heart of Siberia through a long, convoluted route that feels as if it were the only manner of accomplishing the insertion.
But finally we are gifted with the actual mission, the methods of breaking though fool-proof security, and disappearing with almost no trace. This leads inevitably to a breakneck escape with all the hounds of Russia on his tail.
Along the way you learn an incredible amount about Arctic shipping, boats that make the passage, life in the frozen north as well as the gulag camps from Stalin's time.
The author manages to infuse every paragraph with suspense that causes to reader to surge forward looking for the payoff. It's a long time coming but worth the wait. ( )
  TomDonaghey | May 1, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312956614, Paperback)

Johnny Porter, a rebel with a gift for language and disguise, discovers a Russian scientific secret that could either be used to improve the world or destroy it. Reprint. NYT.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:56 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The hero is Johnny Porter, an Oxford-educated Canadian Indian who is an accomplished linguist and master of disguise. The CIA sends him to Russia to obtain information on a genetics program. He enrolls as a Korean deckhand on a ship in Japan, crosses Siberia as a truck driver--in which capacity he meets beautiful Dr. Tanya Komarov--picks up the information and in a hail of bullets dashes home across the Bering Straits. By the author of The Night of the Wenceslas.… (more)

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